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Communicating from within the Information Tsunami

“You have 60 unread emails” and it’s only 8am in the morning. Ugh. It’s shaping up to be your fourth Friday* in a row. Why is it that at the most inconvenient time, the pace doubles and the information flows faster than your filter can absorb?

What do you do in that moment to process and “communicate” from within the information tsunami? Think about it for a moment. Communication is the lifeblood of manufacturing. Communication ensures good decisions have a chance to be made, communication enables good prioritization of tasks and initiatives, communication reinforces the team’s direction.

I’ll ask again, how do you filter the information coming and going during a day like this?

Let’s start by acknowledging that email is not the end all be all. Heresy! One time in the automotive industry I watched emails flying back and forth between two of my staff who were sitting less than 15′ apart. I finally had had enough and dragged them into a conference room and said, “Fix it.”

To be fair, we all have a preferred method of communication be it Email – Text – Daily Reports – Phone – Face/Face. But instead of thinking of yourself. Why not flip it and ask yourself, “What does the situation require of you to communicate best in?” In a fluid day, an email may languish in an overflowing inbox whereas a text will be acted upon.

When sending emails, pay attention to your “subject” line wording. Some folks support multiple business areas, so just saying “Yesterday’s meeting notes” isn’t helpful. That is why Miss Grammar created “adjectives” – “Yesterday’s Production meeting notes” is more descriptive. Use key words in the subject including the project, location, etc. Help the email receiver help you.

For the millennials, go ahead and smile, because while I’m a boomer, I think a text message can be the best way to keep information flowing in certain situations. Each company’s environment differs so use this to augment and reinforce the communication for those times when “instant” means now, not an hour from now.

Daily Reports
We all get “daily” reports. Sometimes the Daily report isn’t first on the must read now list. You can filter these as needed to fit your rhythm. Sometimes you may even discern a pattern that you never tend to read a particular report – would it be crazy to suggest removing yourself from that particular thread?

Conversations (Phone or Face/Face)
Fast conversations can prevent a cluttered email box. Let me say it again – conversations save inbox overload.

If an email chain becomes a “back and forth” conversation – either drop everyone else off or better yet pick up the phone. Realize that not everyone is on the computer all the time and not everyone has smart phones. If you need an immediate answer or have time-critical information – don’t use email. Text, call or go find the person.

When you find the information tsunami is in full force, take a moment to be respectful of others and their priorities. If someone doesn’t immediately respond to you, don’t assume they are ignoring you. While you may have 60 unread emails, they may have 100. It’s hard to believe that your priorities may not be someone else’s too.

Plan ahead, don’t procrastinate, allow people time to respond based on the situation.

Be intentional

*I have nothing against those who love Fridays. But after 30 years in the manufacturing world, if something is going to go wrong, it will be on a Friday or the day before a long holiday weekend… That’s when you just have to smile and say, let’s figure it out…

Five ways to minimize disruption’s effect.


These folks take disruption seriously. (And I’m glad they do.)

One of the curses to a good running manufacturing operation is disruption. We try to plan for it, correct for it, and recover from it.  It is the thing that can go wrong, the surprise to a perfect plan, Murphy’s Law. Processes and process control are the ways strong, healthy operations acknowledge, minimize and correct for disruption.

However, it is not just the floor that deals with disruption – it is the whole enterprise that can be disrupted.  It just is not as visible, as it is “information flow” that stalls. This would be things like communication disruption, skill set disruption, and disruption due to failed assumptions. On the floor, we can see the disruption by the lack of movement of parts.  In the offices, information disruption is not so visible. What amazes me is that we fail to recognize how critical information disruption is – it usually results in disruption on the floor, just months later. We also have processes and process control for information – appreciating how this keeps us strong and healthy is key.

So how do we correct for and recover from our disruptions in the world of “information” – those things that if not addressed ultimately mean a disruption in part flow on the floor. How do we put the disruptions on the table and focus our energies as a team to ensure the disruption does not happen again? I am not talking about disruptions to your day (i.e., emails, phone calls, people stopping by), but disruption in the flow of information that passes through all of us.

  1. Realize that a small thing today may only seem like a ripple for you, however it may become a huge crack as it moves through the timeline. Learn how your disruptions effect your customer(s) downstream. Based on what is critical to your customer – take the time to communicate the incident (be open and honest) and communicate how you are pro-actively working to minimize future disruptions.
  2. Are you more busy covering up your disruptions or more busy actively finding them? If you breathe a sigh of relief that no one noticed your “information disruption”, your mindset is incorrect. Instead, let your customer know you are working on improving something – they just may help you get there faster.
  3. Really, if it can go wrong it will, really. So why do you plan for utopia? Good “idea people” have a plan, great “idea people” have a flexible plan with mitigation for disruption built in to it. Every day I ask myself “what if?” questions – how often do you?
  4. Before you leave, is there a piece of information, a communication, an execution of something in your computer systems, etc. that if you did your part today would ensure “flow” so that the next in line isn’t waiting? People are counting on you to do what you do in the computers so that they can do what they do.
  5. Know the processes that are around your information. Know the best practices for working with the information.  Knowing is a big part of minimizing information disruption.

Let’s work to stamp out disruption in our information flows.

Take a moment and ask yourself what three things you could do to lessen “information disruption” in your area of influence. Feel free to share one of those ideas below in the comments. We can all learn from each other.

kind regards,